There was at least a small part of me that pitied Adele for being excluded from the gathering, but I understood the reasons for it. She was entitled to be excited over the discovery of her ‘new’ grandson, but he was entitled to find the sudden attention off-putting. It wasn’t as though Adele or Linda made a good impression on Christmas Eve, and I’d already gotten the feeling his primary interest in his biological family concerned the ability he shared with Sookie and, if asked, I would have said it made sense for Brandon to connect with his siblings first.
I carried the globe directly upstairs… listening to Sookie tease Jason for his brilliant ploy to miss mixing dip and slicing vegetables, and the twins excitedly telling Klaasje about their thrilling day with their aunt… Everyone’s voices placed them in the kitchen except for Gawain and Simza; wherever they were, they were quiet.
When I arrived in the kitchen, Gawain was comfortable in the breakfast nook with Ari on his lap as they watched everyone else interact… more evidence that the littlest telepath knew about Gawain’s secret. She liked ‘Misser Gain’ enough to make her father jealous.
Given the way Sookie was handling the knife she was using to slice lemons for the large dispensers of iced tea and lemonade, she’d calmed down substantially… but Gawain still gave me a dirty look when he noticed me.
Begging the question… What the fuck had I done?
I’d been on my best behavior since I rose… I’d avoided the subject of Sookie’s ass and curtailed my reaction to Tyson’s gifts.
Sookie’s outfit had hardly changed even though she’d showered… clean clothing in the same scheme as the ensemble she’d worn to put on the show for Alcide’s co-workers. She’d pulled her hair into a bun I suspected was meant to curl her hair, and hadn’t bothered with makeup. Her new boots didn’t have a heel, so she looked dwarfed next to Klaasje even though Klaasje was wearing flats.
Shawn asked Jason, “So what helped you escape kitchen duty?”
Jason boasted, “Eric’s car didn’t have enough trunk space for something he got for Sook. My Ascender did though.”
Hadley jokingly gasped, “Unsanctioned gift exchange!”
Sookie giggled and waved her knife in the air. “You’ll forgive me when you hear the details… A certain book that’s been on Eric’s wish list forever came into my possession. I’d been holding onto it, hoping to draw his name for Christmas, but I gave up…”
Pam snorted, “Clarissa? Finally?”
While I nodded, Marcy probed, “How long have you been holding onto it?”
“Two and a half damn years. When I found it, I nearly wet my pants, but then y’all decided on the Secret Santa thing, so I had to wait since that asshole didn’t have a birthday or anything…”
Pam groaned, “Notice she said didn’t… Sookie’s unsanctioned gift inspired him to finally pick a birthday…”
Sookie specified, “August 24th folks. Mark the calendar.”
Pam snickered, “I already ordered party supplies… I found a Viking theme.”
Fuck the internet.
I turned to leave the room and growled, “If you’ll all excuse me, I need to cancel all of Pam’s credit cards… again…”
Sookie promised, “She’ll behave. She won’t make you regret having a birthday… I have leverage.”
That stopped me.
Pam immediately began pouting.
Sookie leaned past Klaasje to whisper into Pam’s ear, “Birkins.”
Birkins? The handbags?
Pam asked, “What about them?”
“You wouldn’t want to rise one night to find your white rabbit Birkin had been embroidered to say Winifred, now would you?”
Pam smirked. “I don’t have a white rabbit Birkin.”
No, but she opened two pink ones last night with the rest of the gifts I’d given her. Ostrich and alligator.
Sookie countered, “You could.”
Pam took a deep breath and asked, “What are you implying?”
The kitchen had become completely still while everyone watched their exchange, and all I could do was hope Sookie didn’t mean she was willing to pay six figures to bribe Pam to behave… not when I was willing to command her to ignore my birthday.
Sookie turned back to her task, and as she sunk lemon slices into the dispensers, she explained, “I brought a bunch of my thank-yous from storage today. I figured I’d divvy everything up. If you agree to play nice in regards to Eric’s birthday, you’ll be included in the lottery. Lots of Birkins in there… If I didn’t know better, I’d think they just give them away when you land in Paris.”
Considering there was a wait-list for them, and I had to resort to glamour to get my hands on the two Pam owned… that was hilarious.
Pam scoffed, “You’re going to give away your Birkins?”
Sookie shrugged. “I kept the blue ones. I use them when I travel because they’re big enough for books and snacks. No one could possibly need as many as I have even if you ignore the duplicates.”
Sookie raised her eyebrows, waiting for Pam to agree to simply refrain from punishing me for choosing a birthday.
Pam huffed, “Fine! I was only joking anyway… What are we talking about?”
Sookie winked at me before answering, “Like Simza said last night, I get a lot of clothes, shoes and bags. I keep some of it, but I ship enough home that I should’ve invested in DHL… Bags that are much bigger than anyone could possibly need unless they’re climbing a mountain, and shoes and clothes that are close-but-no-cigar in size. The girls make my waist and hips seem smaller than they really are, so all you poor fours are just going to have to suck it up. This is just the first batch, by the way. Five more, at least.”
Gawain offered, “She spared one Vampire from bringing over a lunatic, and he thanked her with the stock of the boutique she’d opened. She stocked high fashion as an excuse to embezzle… Then there were the ‘Counterfeit Weres’.”
Pam’s eyes lit up. “Counterfeit Weres?”
Sookie wiggled her ass and explained, “I mediated between feuding partners in Dubai. They make beautiful knockoffs… so good the girls in Paris boutiques couldn’t tell the difference. But, to be safe, they sent me fours and sixes. One of those big boxes in the dining room is nothing but not-Armani jeans I can’t zip.”
Pam gasped, “Those aren’t Armani!?”
When Sookie shook her head, Pam, Marcy, Hadley and Klaasje all looked at the doorway to the dining room.
Marcy asked, “What’s the catch? You want Pam to be cool about Eric’s birthday… What do you want from me, Hadley and Klaasje?”
Sookie hummed, “Ummmmmm, while you’re not fighting, y’all need to set aside some stuff Gran might like. I’ve got a few cardigans and shawls she could wear because they’re made big… And start a pile for my bitchy aunt. I’m not being nice to her right now.”
Good… on both counts.
Pam asked, “Simza?”
I was surprised Pam wasn’t already converting cardboard to confetti.
“Sim’s an eight, so she can’t get into the clothes, but you know how she is about jewel tones, so keep that in mind while you’re playing with the bags and shoes. She’s got tiny feet for someone so tall… She’ll stop pouting and come inside eventually…”
That would explain where she’d gone… there was probably a slew of trees that had already been mutilated by her new knives.
Sookie tilted her head towards the dining room and snorted, “Y’all better play while you can. Sookie’s Boutique closes when dinner’s ready… even if you don’t chew.”
Shawn opened the refrigerator to remove a tray of steaks and sighed, “And I’m gonna have to go test drive Sookie’s new grill for her.”
Brandon chuckled, “Poor Shawn… Want help?”
Jason blurted, “Fire. That’s how ya cook. To the grill!”
At least he was a friendly idiot.
Sookie handed out serving dishes and trays of condiments to the ‘menfolk’ to carry outside, and the children followed them…
When Gawain placed the lids on the dispensers and carried them to the patio, Sookie and I were alone.
It didn’t really matter that the ‘womenfolk’ were just a few feet away considering their task. They might as well have been on the moon… For that matter, I might have been able to remove half of our clothing before any of them noticed we were on the dining room table.
I slithered up behind Sookie while she whisked the contents of a small bowl. “Did you purposefully omit the details of your Birkin collection last night in an effort to keep it as leverage?”
She snickered, “Maybe,” and turned around to face me. “I could have just avoided the topic because it didn’t seem like they were ever going to give us any peace.”
“Well played…” When her ‘crock-pot engagement ring’ caught my eye, I slid it off of her finger and tucked it into her pocket. “Can I steal you for a few minutes so you can open your unsanctioned gifts?”
“I think so. The boys helped me do all the entremetier stuff earlier, and you’ve seen Hadley and Marcy work. We’re just waiting for the grill.”
When I lifted her, she complained, “I should wash my hands,” but she still wrapped her legs around me.
“Are you expecting to unwrap a Faerie?”
She giggled, “Even if you caught one, you would have called me about how to contact the Sullivans.”
“It’s probably not a good thing that you understand my addiction so well.”
“You’ve insulated yourself well with other addicts and enablers…” As I started for the stairs, she asked, “How bored did you get after I crashed last night?”
“I didn’t. Clarissa entertained me until just before dawn.”
I was only halfway up the steps when she snickered, “That’s all I have.”
“No more polite conversation while I’m between your legs?”
She tightened her thighs against my sides and breathed, “Go figure.”
“Impolite conversation then?”
She took a deep breath, but she ended up shaking her head. “Nope. I can’t think of anything to say…”
As much as that sounded like an invitation, she gasped when I stepped into her office.
She breathed, “It’s beautiful,” and lowered her legs… She spun the globe to find North America first and giggled, “Thirty-eight states… this is…” She paused to read the cartouche and the labeling on the meridian line. “Just… Beautiful. Thank you.”
I couldn’t have been more pleased by her reaction… except for the nagging caused by the scent of her tears. I hadn’t seen her react to any gifts by crying.
She amused herself by briefly concentrating on a few areas that had changed since it was made more than a century ago, but eventually, she toed one of her other gifts out of the way so she could wheel her globe to its new home in the corner under the Tiffany floor lamp… and then she turned around to scan the room… I watched her eyes dart between the furniture as though she was making sure she didn’t want to completely rearrange to accommodate the globe.
At least I didn’t have to worry that she didn’t like the gift… but I caught myself thinking about Simza’s suggestion… that I should give Sookie my blood. I’d gone to the extent of learning actual sign language, so I could have relied on that as far as guarding her was concerned, but there were other benefits I could think of to being able to feel her moods.
She finally sniffled, “Best gift ever. Are you sure you want me to open the rest? You could save them for later.”
I made myself comfortable on the chaise and chuckled, “In case you haven’t noticed, I don’t have a problem finding gifts for you. Go ahead.”
She was grinning when she reached for the first gift… the small chest with a world map on its lid contained an antique miniature globe in a case, a gold globe pendant, a mid-century mantle clock, a wire wall sculpture representing the hemispheres, accent pillows and a woven blanket, and a compact that continued the map theme…
She immediately slipped the necklace over her head and studied the little globe wearing a wide grin… spilling more tears. The clock was placed next to her desk lamp (angled so she would be able to see it from her desk chair and the chaise), and a pair of frames containing dried flowers were removed from the wall over the chaise so she could hang the hemispheres.
She opened the luggage next… The large rolling case to the small accessory bag… pulling one bag out of the last until she reached the smallest of them which contained a wallet and passport folder… laughingly reminding me that she’d wrapped Adele and Pam’s luggage the same way… and ‘fuck their pink shit’ because she had maps on her new luggage.
She actually blew a raspberry at me for the map covered storage boxes because they meant she’d actually have to organize thousands of photos. The albums she’d made of her sightseeing contained only a small portion of the pictures she’d taken. Those were more like travel brochures of landmarks and scenery. The majority of her photos were taken of fun and fuckery with her friends and guards. Neither of us wanted to know how much worse Linda’s assumptions would have been if she’d seen photos of the constant parade of practically nude pets and donors. Sookie had declared Thomas John’s seraglio the worst of them, and Johan and Nicholas were practically nudists.
The last gift was another trunk like the one containing her necklace and miniature globe, but it contained map themed clothing…
As soon as she opened it, she narrowed her eyes and asked, “Did you find out about the cruise?”
The map print bikini had inspired the accusation, no doubt.
“I was as surprised as everyone else… Actually, I found most of the clothing while I was shopping for Pam’s birthdays… If I knew about the cruise ahead of time, you probably would have opened an anonymously-gifted bin full of Disney movies… and a Minnie Mouse costume.”
She snickered as she began removing the items to look them over. “I had to ask… the luggage, the bikini… Oooooh, love the kaftan. Excellent swimsuit cover…”
She went as far as removing her boots to try on the map printed shoes I’d found, and she left the ballerina flats on as she came over to straddle me, tucking one of the small pillows behind my head.
“Most of it is by the same designer who made your luggage. Apparently maps are his trademark, like Louboutin and red soles.”
“This is one hell of a way to start a collection. He better have a website… Thank you.”
“He does, and you’re very welcome… Is your hot tub warm enough to give you an excuse to show me your bikini later?”
She tilted her hips to rub against me and hummed, “Probably,” as I used the chain on her necklace to pull her closer. “We’ll need to unwind later anyway… Erica should go to Fangtasia so the Sheriff can treat her like shit in public.”
She was too good at the game.
“Because he isn’t happy about being traded like a baseball card.”
She wiggled her eyebrows at me and closed the gap between us…
As soon as her lips met mine, her hips began moving, adding enough friction to make me crave later, look forward to something…
When Pam walked into the office, she undoubtedly had an excellent view of how far up I’d pushed Sookie’s tank top, and her hold on the painful bulge in my jeans.
She cleared her throat and started, “We have a little problem…”
Sookie’s head crashed against my chest and she growled, so I asked, “How did you let her sneak up on us?”
Sookie sat up, rubbing against me in the process, and scowled. “Because she’s my child? I was keeping a bead on the actual kids to make sure they didn’t walk in on us. You had one job.”
And? I blew a raspberry at her as I straightened her top. “What’s the problem, Pam?”
Sookie answered my raspberry by leaning back, laying her shoulders on the chaise between my feet to look up at Pam… the view was punishment enough, but the way her ass rubbed against what she’d done to me…
I wanted to fucking cry.
Pam held up her arms to show an assortment of Birkins, so Sookie groaned, “Oh good. I thought you cock-blocked us for sport. I didn’t realize it was a matter of life and death.”
Pam gave me a dirty look for chuckling and started by lifting the arm burdened with an assortment of blue bags. “Should these go to your closet or are these the duplicates?”
Sookie huffed, “Duplicates. My Birkins are already with the rest of my carry-ons.”
Pam nodded. “We wanted to be sure…” She lifted the other arm loaded with an array of black, white, red and brown bags. “You had enough that we all have these now… Even Gran and Linda… We’re thinking Zee might want a couple, and Pastor Roper could Ebay a couple to top-off the daycare fundraising.”
Sookie sighed, “Ummmmm… Okay, set the red, white and black alligator bags in my closet. I’ll use those as giftwrap for stuff for little Erica. Call Zee about which ones she wants, and I’ll start a box for the Ropers. Good idea.”
“The idea was Klaasje’s… There are pink and purple bags. Wouldn’t you rather use those for Erica’s gifts?”
“Her nursery is done in ladybugs. Val hates pink…” Pam gasped before Sookie could continue, “And the black-white-red thing is supposed to be more visually stimulating to infants. I trust the obstetrician.”
I would too.
“That makes sense… There isn’t much for Gran or Linda.”
“They’ll poo on the designer labels anyway… but better to give them something to snub than leave them feeling slighted. Gran will probably use a Birkin on the cruise as a pool bag though…” After a moment, Sookie asked, “Anything else you want to talk about that could totally wait until dinner?”
Pam smirked. “I’m trying to think of something.”
The gilded decanter on the side table was the closest thing I could find, but Sookie sat up and grabbed my arm before I could reach for it… and Pam disappeared before I could command her to go away.
In the amount of time I spent trying to calm down (and realizing that reminding myself of what I had to look forward to ‘later’ wasn’t helping matters), Shawn had called out with a five-minute warning.
It actually helped to know dinner would have interrupted us anyway.
When I stepped outside, Shawn, Jason and Brandon began clapping and cheering…
It went on for long enough that the children had time to run around from the side of the house before Brandon explained, “You’re a gift-giving ninja, dude.”
Jason added, “You made Sook sappy as hell… and the only thing that usually makes her cry is rage. Nice job.”
I nodded. “Nosy. Assholes. All of you.” Just because Gawain hadn’t cheered like a drunk soccer fan, didn’t mean he was innocent. If the rest of them were eavesdropping he wouldn’t have abstained.
He claimed, “I was minding my own business,” as I sat on the other end of the sofa. He pointed to Brandon, Shawn, and then Jason. “See no evil, hear no evil, and feel no evil.” They waved and blew kisses at me, and Jason pointed at the window to the office to suggest it hadn’t been a chore for any of them to spy on us.
I corrected, “You were letting them do your dirty work.”
“I didn’t suggest Pam interrupt you though, so you can’t punish me for your-”
Shawn whispered, “Kids,” so Gawain wouldn’t open the floor for explaining blue balls to the children.
Jason snorted, “Go figure. The history junkie fell for an antique globe.”
Gawain chuckled in German, “It’s funny that he thinks a globe is just a globe… Everyone else gave her gifts that pulled her in a certain direction, but you gave her the world even though you hate the idea of her leaving.”
Nevermind that he’d practically outted himself as a telepath, and the fact that his tone wasn’t the least bit mocking… I knew why the gifts made her cry and I hadn’t needed to upset her by asking.
When Sookie stepped outside, she chided, “I heard that, you nosy asshole.”
Gawain grumbled, “Fuck Atum’s blood and your heightened hearing.”
She toggled her head in a nanny-nanny-boo-boo gesture.
Jules blurted, “You had Vampire blood?”
Sookie nodded matter-of-factly as she took three plates and waved the children over to the assortment of food so she could begin filling plates for them. “I did… Back in September there was a huge earthquake in Japan. A ceiling beam fell on me and messed me up pretty bad. My leg was broken and the bone was sticking out like a bad movie special effect. Anyway… Atum, who was my guard at the time, gave me his blood to heal me… I could see in the dark for a few weeks, but the longest lasting side effect has been that I have hearing as good as a Were.”
Emery asked, “That’s cool, but how come ya aren’t crazy? Vampire blood makes people nuts. It was on tha news.”
Apparently, he didn’t know that his father had been sharing blood with Klaasje.
“Vampire blood makes people crazy because stupid people buy it as a drug from stupid drug dealers. Even ranch dressing needs to be kept in the fridge so it doesn’t go bad. Those jacktards walk around with little vials in their pockets because they think it needs to be kept at Human body temperature.”
That was the most concise and simply put explanation I’d heard to date. News reports tended to gloss over the benefits of Vampire blood, or bogged down viewers with medical jargon.
Sookie could be a spokesperson for the Vampire population… A peer Humans would believe. Steve Newlin’s nemesis.
While Sookie cut a steak for Ari, Emery said, “One more question.”
Brandon cringed as Sookie said, “Shoot.”
“If ya had Vampirre blood, has a Vampire had your blood?”
“Does it hurt, ya know, when they bite?”
“A little… I mean, you feel it, and it’s not like their fangs are tiny. It hurts a little more than a shot, but not as much as my tattoo. How’s that?”
The children seemed to accept her answer, but Shawn scoffed, “Don’t downplay it, Sook. My tattoo didn’t hurt that bad…”
She argued, “A- you were attacked by your Maker. You weren’t prepared for a feeding. B- I have a fine-line tattoo on the palms of my hands, and I’m pretty sure the marking from the tribe of Lame on your bicep didn’t hit many nerve endings.”
While the rest of us chuckled over his ‘marking from the tribe of Lame’, his face puckered and he announced, “A lesson to you kids: Don’t celebrate your eighteenth birthday with a trip to a tattoo shop. I’ll regret that forever.”
Sookie argued, “I love mine though. I didn’t wait until I was old enough either. I flirted with-”
Shawn shouted, “SOOK!”
She giggled, “You lie to normal kids and paint yourself the embodiment of virtue, but these guys know better… I have a tattoo I got at sixteen and I love it, but you regret the tribal you got at eighteen. I think it demonstrates that tattoos should mean something and that we have to live with our decisions, but I’ll shut up if you think I’m wrong.”
Sookie had my vote, not that it mattered.
Brandon added, “I was eighteen and I don’t regret my tigers. Not for a second.”
Gawain asked, “The year of the tiger?” and nodded towards the twins.
He nodded and added, “In red for their birthstone…” When the boys demanded that he show his tattoo, he pulled his shirt up to reveal large red and black tigers wrapped around his ribs and hissing at each other… and when he turned around, their tails were twisted together. “Four sittings. The guy didn’t want to do it all at once.”
Sookie giggled, “The Brandon I met in the braid had a red water lily on his shoulder. He got it right after Julie was born.”
He chuckled, “Awwww, I should’ve thought of that… I bet I wouldn’t have to show my ink every time the subject of tattoos comes up.”
Jules laughed, “If we were flowers? Heck no! We like being tigers!”
Jason chuckled, “I always wanted one, but couldn’t ever stick with an idea for long. Maybe kids’ll inspire me.”
Gawain crooned, “Sookie’s getting another tattoo.”
She nodded while she continued to cut steaks for the children. “Why do you make it sound like I’m up to something?”
“I’m not trying to make it sound like you’re up to something. I just want to be sure you realize how impressive it is that Atum will be the artist. He hasn’t given a tattoo in centuries. He’s picky about his canvasses.”
Sookie grinned as she removed her phone from her pocket. She showed the children several photos before tossing the phone to me while she explained to the children, “When I’m idle, I need a book. When Atum is idle, he needs a pen. He’s been an artist since he was a little boy…”
One photo after another, Sookie was decorated with Atum’s drawings… intricate designs that ranged from small filigree bands around her ankles or wrists, to large scenes that covered her back… and there were a couple of photos of her dressed in formal gowns and gilded with gold leaf.
I passed Sookie’s phone to Gawain and asked, “Do you know what he’ll give you?”
She shook her head. “I haven’t disliked anything he’s drawn on me. When he offered, I told him to surprise me. I know he plans to put it on my back, but that’s it.”
That was trust, giving someone free reign over something that would last forever.
Emery scoffed, “That’s stupid. He could tattoo ya with a dog coppin’ a squat, or ‘kick me’ in that old-style tattoo font…”
Sookie giggled, “Atum is the guy that gave me his blood just to spare me from being in pain… And between Eric and Gawain there’s probably only a handful of people they trust in the whole world, and both of them trust Atum. He wouldn’t shame me with a mean tattoo.”
“What’s it called when ya laugh at someone in a bad way?”
“Yeah that. I’ma need new pants if ya get punked.”
Ari finally joined the conversation to promise, “Not Misser Atum. He’s too awesome.”
Clearly, he’d made an impression on her when he’d visited Bon Temps in the summer.
I added, “Atum takes being trusted very seriously. I don’t think anyone could think of a time when he’s betrayed someone.”
Gawain grumbled, “And we’re not going to spend any amount of time discussing that the apple didn’t fall far from the tree, or what a shame it is that all of his siblings aren’t as venerable.”
I shook my head, agreeing to not discuss it… if for no better reason, the twins already knew too much about what Klaasje had been through. They didn’t need to hear that one of the most trustworthy and respected Knights in the Old World had been reared by the same Maker as the prick who abused the only mother they’d ever known. Rígr had proven himself as a Maker; Halfdan proved himself to be a bad seed.
Jason scoffed, “If we aren’t talkin’ about it, I can’t ask why.”
Sookie sighed, “Because Atum has a kid brother who’s a notorious prick,” and walked over to knock on the dining room window. “Time’s up, bitches. Dinner’s served. Get your greedy asses outside. I’m willing to break the window and turn the garden hose on. I think my wood and crystal will hold up, but how well-”
Before Sookie could mention what the Birkins would smell like wet, the kitchen door opened to unleash the mob of fashion slaves.
Marcy was fastening a pair of ‘not-Armani’ jeans, and Hadley was pouting until Shawn handed a fully loaded plate to her.
He kissed her forehead and whispered, “You aren’t fat. Turner is… Once he’s evicted, you’ll make those jeans look amazing.”
Jason and Brandon looked up from the buffet long enough to coo, “Awwwwww, he’s a keeper,” in perfect harmony… An outsider wouldn’t have known they hadn’t been raised together.
Arianna snorted, “They’re teasin’ like they aren’t whipped too… Iz ionic.” Her appreciation for irony officially made her my favorite ‘toddler’.
Shawn very proudly corrected her, “Ironic, angel… yes it is,” and blew a raspberry at his hecklers.
For the most part, the dinner party wasn’t much different from any Sunday supper I’d attended… other than the uncensored conversation (because verbiage wasn’t as much of a concern as content when telepathic children were concerned, the lighthearted fuckery was just as present as ever… a bonus dosage of fun… especially the part when Sookie went into the house for a few minutes and returned to belch the stench of rare steak, vinaigrette and beer in Pam’s face as payback for cock-blocking us. As disgusting (and immature) as it was, I forgave Sookie for the ghastly act before I started laughing… but I was willing to admit that if it had been for any other reason it would have been disenchanting.
It wasn’t until after dinner, and once Sookie had distributed dessert (the cheesecake recipe that ‘made her contract in New York worthwhile’) that anyone said anything that could be considered serious…
Brandon started by asking, “So can I ask what crawled out of Linda’s ass so quick? I mean, she was in bitch-mode: full-throttle, and then last night… Was it the Christmas spirit? Sorry, Hadley, but she was-”
Hadley cut him off, “Don’t apologize just because she’s my mom, Bran. I think she was out of line too. We just… Sook? You gonna tell us since we’re together?”
Sookie shrugged and took her time pulling her fork from her mouth. “For the record, I’m pretty sure the Klaasje cross-examination was guilt by association. She didn’t trust me because I keep secrets. And Klaasje’s my friend, and we’re pretty protective of her privacy… When Aunt Linda stormed out of the house the other night and came to Fangtasia, I had enough. I mean, Eric has to call and deal with a bereft Maker now because she didn’t trust me enough to take the warnings about our scent seriously… I pushed her. She was playing with her ability and asking herself the wrong questions, so she was getting half answers, and her imagination was interfering too… So, now that she knows what she is, and what she can do, she got a come-to-Jesus from herself. I just tugged her hand along the way.”
Brandon nodded and asked, “What about the glamour?”
“Details I’d rather she didn’t focus on around the kids. She wasn’t happy about it, but she didn’t fight… Not once I told her about some of the stuff I’ve caught her thinking about around the kids.”
Hadley asked, “So you think she’ll be better? I mean, she didn’t get riled last night…”
Brandon added, “And that bit about Simza didn’t spin her up either… She did…” He cleared his throat instead of finishing, so I assumed he meant that Linda had visualized the circumstances of Sookie’s ‘relationship’ with Simza.
Sookie huffed, “Yeah, I know… I’m hoping that since she knows how wrong she was about almost everything, she’ll realize she needs to work on the bigger picture. I mean, she let herself be horrified by seeing Clovis on top of me, and didn’t analyze anything. We were fully clothed and there was a stake in his shoulder. Asa was knocked out and I got a concussion… She saw me dancing with Maximo’s hands on my ass, but she didn’t see when I reminded him that I was under contract as a telepath, and not in Italy as a courtesan. She saw me talking to Johan, but she doesn’t realize that fool is almost always naked. Like nudist-naked, and Wouter had warned me, but I didn’t take him seriously because he’d said Johan was ‘born naked and never outgrew the condition’…”
Brandon scoffed, “She’s been pixelating you?”
Jason nodded. “For years… and if it helps, she felt… all through Christmas dinner she felt like she was standin’ over a casket, like enough regret to choke on. That glamour might keep her from thinking ‘bout private details, but it don’t keep her from feelin’ sorry… It flared up again when Eric got to the house too.”
Brandon nodded. “Good. What about Gran? She hasn’t been glamoured that I can tell.”
Sookie, Hadley and Jason all pointed at him, and Hadley explained, “Gran and Mommy spend too much time together. She isn’t as pig-headed as Mommy, so Jason and I can usually talk her down… When you read her the riot act the other night, she nearly shit her pants.”
Sookie offered, “She didn’t realize how much she nitpicks me until you said something… She could’ve blown off Jason or Hadley because she’s used to them defending me in my absence, but… when you put your foot in my circle, she realized how much it’s snowballed… It was kind of funny. While we were putting dinner together yesterday, she thought about the stuff you mentioned. Apparently, I have nice boobs. I shouldn’t have to keep them in a bra. She should be ashamed of herself for forgetting that she’d burned a bra long before I was born.”
He chuckled with the rest of us and said, “Good. At least being a dickhead and ripping an old woman a new asshole with an audience wasn’t fruitless… So… When do we get to see Erica Weiss in action?”
Without any other input, Sookie gasped, “Tonight!?”
He nodded. “I brought something slutty to wear and everything. Klaasje needs to feed anyway…”
Jason agreed, “Hell yeah. I’m down with that. I been wantin’ to see this shit forever.”
Shawn chuckled at the gobsmacked look on her face, “I could feed… What’s the matter, Sook? Stage freight?”
She nodded. “Yeah, sort of… Ummmm, I’m not just… what I’m doing in Shreveport is complicated and-”
Brandon crooned, “So explain in little words so the retards don’t light any fuses that’ll blow shit up in your face.”
After looking at me and Gawain for some sort of clue (perhaps rescue), Sookie took a deep breath and sighed, “Kids, I won’t do this a lot, but I need to ask you to play in the den so the grownups can talk… There’s a stash of board games in there and I have tons of DVDs.”
Jules snorted, “I guess that means we won’t get to see Erica Weiss, huh?”
Her lip trembled. “You know what? You will, but not tonight. Not at Fangtasia. It’s a bar, so you couldn’t go anyway… but I’ll think of something. I promise.”
Ari bounced out of her seat and ran over to kiss Sookie’s cheek. “Tha’s good’nuff fer me. She’ll make good. She ahways does.”
Once the children had relocated their desserts to the den and the door was closed behind them, Hadley started by pointing at everyone, scolding, “Fuck aaaaalllllllll you bitches. If y’all get to see her work, I’m taking the shorties to see Cheaper By The Dozen… and we’ll go to IHOP for pancakes… and Shawn Tucker Ingram, if you forget a single detail…”
He finished, “I wouldn’t dream of skipping anything, even if you didn’t know where I die for the day, honey. I swear…” He kissed her neck and offered, “You’re an awesome sport. I’m a very lucky man.”
She nodded, but she was pouty about it. “Good. That being said…” She pointed to Sookie to cue her to begin, making it really difficult to not laugh at her.
As sweet (bordering on adorable) as she was, I couldn’t fathom the social time bomb described in the braid… I was almost scared to witness it eventually.
Sookie stared at what was left of her cheesecake for long enough that Gawain started, “As an agent for King Wallace Milne of Texas, Erica Weiss is in Shreveport as a mole in the Shreveport congregation of the Fellowship of the Sun. Mr. and Mrs. Alcide and Erica Herveaux will be married in a few nights and move into their love-nest next door to Reverend and Mrs. Gleason. The broad-scope objective of the operation is to discredit the leaders of the church in a way that will inspire its parishioners to disavow association with the institution and shaming the act of hating Vampires under an umbrella of ignorance. There are several moles peppered throughout Fellowship congregations in Texas, working to the same end under Milne’s Sheriffs. Meanwhile, in Louisiana… if you thought Pam was bad last night, it was nothing compared to how the Queen of Louisiana has reacted to having the Erica Weiss in her territory. Thanks to the laundry list of super-powers Erica has worked for, Queen Sophie-Anne LeClerq wants to falsely imply that their circles of friends overlap in an effort to discourage her political adversaries from making a move against her. After all, two of her Sheriffs have similar work references to Erica’s… What pulled us away from the holiday last night was a desperate attempt to have the telepath followed. By the time Erica was finished with the Queen’s second in command, Erica had begun negotiations for a fraction of the service she usually provides for the usual payment, and the added bonus of Eric’s ass… With me so far?”
Nearly everyone repeated, “Eric’s ass!?”
Gawain nodded and continued, “In an interesting development, the reason for Sophie-Anne’s eagerness played her into a corner. At Erica’s suggestion, the Queen is willing to use the remainder of Eric’s contract as a bargaining chip in an effort to secure Erica’s services and, more importantly, a byline on her resume. As it stands, the term remaining on Eric’s contract will be fulfilled as Erica’s guard, and his incentive for accepting his change in status is asylum in Louisiana for him and his increase…”
Jason shook his head and held his hand up. “Wait. Flag on the play… How long’s it gonna be before the Queen thinks she can leverage Eric as her mole? I mean, when he’s in BFE guarding Sookie, Pam and Shawn are still here… The Queen could pull some shady shit. She could get to them, or threaten to… She could be thinking she’ll have a telepathic puppet, or a spy against other kingdoms. I wouldn’t blame him for leaking info, or even turning on her, if someone threatened Pam…”
Sookie shook her head before I let myself be as paranoid as I should have been all along. “Sophie-Anne’s got two vultures circling for the New Orleans money train. Part of the arrangement, because I’m not stupid, is that I won’t work for either vulture and I’m offering any intel I come across anyway… Once Eric is out of Area 5, there will be a takeover within a year or two. With him and Salome as Sheriffs, they’re a political cock-block… By then, Eric’s replacement will have established himself and these folks are just part of the population. No one in their right mind would think he’d be a problem for them after Sophie-Anne traded him to a Human, and the new Sheriff will be too green to be considered a problem of loyalty, so he isn’t being thrown to the wolves either.”
Excellent points… and I hadn’t even had the chance to plan a way to back out of the position we were in.
Gawain had nodded as Sookie explained and he continued, “They’re in a fragile position at the moment. Last night, Eric reacted badly to the concept of being offered as part of a business arrangement. Tonight, he’ll need to continue the farce by punishing Erica for her wheeling and dealing with belligerence… Erica dresses provocatively to bring attention to her body so Vampires aren’t as likely to recognize her allure. Erica’s demeanor is as cold as ice. Erica can get away with saying and doing things that would not normally be tolerated between Humans and Vampires. If anyone makes a move against her, no matter how tempted you might be to defend Sookie, you’ll leave the task to Simza and me because Erica is our charge. We know what we’re doing.”
Marcy cleared her throat before mumbling, “You make her sound like two different people.”
Gawain and I nodded, but Klaasje answered, “She is… You wouldn’t believe the difference… Night and day. You’ll hardly recognize her. Erica is very intimidating.”
Gawain asked, “What about you, darling? How chilly is your façade?”
Klaasje looked at her knees and shook her head. “I fear I’m lacking in that department.”
He argued, “Nonsense… I’m sure you’ve needed to keep a straight face before. What’s your weapon of choice?”
Judging by the look on her face, her answer might have been rock, paper or scissors.
Sookie explained, “He’s asking because, rather than having you walk into Fangtasia and present yourself to the Sheriff officially, it might fix several problems if you’re chilling out with your pet, and Gawain points you out to Sheriff Northman, implying to the thralls of Area 5 that you’re part of my security detail without actually saying it. Gawain asks, ‘have you met my associate, Klaasje?’ Eric says he hasn’t had the pleasure, you spend a few minutes small-talking with Eric. You met me at Maximo’s court. You enjoy what you’ve seen of Eric’s Area. Blah-blah-blah…”
I offered, “If you can seem aloof enough to pull it off, none of my thralls will as much as say boo to an associate of ‘the Gawain’… not that your age would inspire much posturing or bullying, but your beautiful pet might.”
Brandon thanked me for the compliment by blowing a kiss at me, making Klaasje giggle. “I’ll do my best… Maybe I’ll use Erica as inspiration.”
How completely sad… for an 800 year-old Vampire to mimic the behavior of a Human to seem more menacing.
I nodded. “That should serve you well.”
Gawain snorted, “And when I’m not traveling with Sookie, I’ll be here for a while. You, my dear, need fostering. Eric and I will see to that.”
By the time I agreed to the task with a nod, she was on the verge of tears. “That’s very generous…”
Pam, who had been uncharacteristically quiet, stood from her seat and said, “Don’t do that. Tears make these men want to kill something. Blood will ruin a good bag… I’ll leak the info that ‘the telepath’ will be making an appearance at Fangtasia tonight… Who wants to help me pick out Sookie’s Tinker-Vamp costume for the evening?”
Marcy leapt from her seat to join Pam, and Sookie gasped, “Tinker-Vamp!? Really?”
“Faeries are conniving and evil…”
“I was raised Human and mentored by a Vampire. I’ve never had as much as a conversation with a full-Faerie. Fuck them. They don’t get any credit for what I am.”
There was proof she didn’t identify with her pointy-eared ancestors… she knew what the fuck loyalty was.
Brandon asked, “Who gets credit for me if I’m mentored by a Fae hybrid who was fostered by Vampires?”
I think everyone held their breath for a moment.
Sookie started, “The boys though.”
“On the job training… that would take some time.”
Sookie had begun nurturing her ability more than a decade ago, spent four years as an apprentice, and then two years as a professional who chose her own contracts and terms… At the twins’ age, Brandon would have more than enough time to watch and learn before striking out on his own.
Sookie breathed, “You’re serious?”
“Serious enough to do some research.”
While Sookie and Brandon continued to stare at each other, the rest of us shared a round of pensive looks… My musings, that eventually there could be a new crop of Lwizyané telepaths, hadn’t been far from the mark.
Sookie finally stood up and offered, “Then let’s get into costume and go over some basics. You’re going to need some pointers.”
Never a dull fucking moment.